Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
HENG LEI: Australia’s attitude towards the AIIB seems to have gone from reluctant support to support. What happened over the last week?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I would not agree with that characterisation. Australia has always recognised that the Chinese proposal to establish an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was a very significant, very important, historic initiative. We felt that it was important to start on the right foot. Over the past few months, we have had very deep engagement with our friends in China and with our friends in other parts of the world with a focus on giving ourselves the best possible opportunity to ensure that the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank will be the best bank it possibly can be with the best structure and the best processes to make its decisions.
CHENG LEI: How do you balance the need for efficient decision making and also for proper governance?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is the challenge for all of the countries that will sit around the table to come up with the final design and structure for the bank. In our view and I think it is a common view, a view shared by all countries that are coming on board, it is important to have sound corporate governance in place which will facilitate decision making on merit, which will facilitate sound decision making when it comes to identifying and prioritising infrastructure projects that can benefit from AIIB investment. But the key is to set up good sound corporate governance in a way that is not overly bureaucratic, that does not prevent efficient decision making. How that is best to be achieved will be subject of consultations and negotiations over the next few months.
CHENG LEI: What’s Australia’s role in regional economic integration, given the challenges that its own economy faces especially with the crash in commodity prices?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our economy is export oriented and as such it is trade exposed. What happens to the global economy, what happens to global commodity prices, matters to Australia more than many other countries. So what we are doing as a Government is focusing on reforms that improve our international competitiveness, reduce the cost of doing business and also we are focused on improving market access across the Asian region in particular. So over the past 12 months or so we have been able to sign significant Free Trade Agreements with China, with South Korea and with Japan. We want to take this further in the future by pursuing the opportunity of a Free Trade Agreement with India. So from our point of view as an export oriented economy, this is our neighbourhood, this is where most of the global economic growth will be generated over the next few decades. So we are very engaged. The success of the Asian region will help drive further success for us as part of this region.